After the previous years deeply electronic “In Den Gärten Pharaos”, Florian Fricke decided to take a radical detour with “Hosianna Mantra” and used no electronic instruments. Album opener “Ah!” begins with just the sound of him playing the piano and he plays nothing else, bar the harpsichord, on this album. The line-up has also changed completely. Fricke is now backed by guitar player Conny Veit (whose own band Gila was on a hiatus after their first album), oboe player Robert Eliseu, Klaus Wiese on tamboura and Korean soprano Djong Yun. Gone are the percussion and moog work outs. Something completely different takes their place.
The usual terms that get thrown at the genre such as “krautrock”, “prog rock” or even “ambient” all seem especially inept for this phase of Popol Vuh’s music. Fricke is clearly working within the framework of classical music whilst at the same time refusing to conform to it’s rules or conventions. The switch to piano comes completely naturally and in Conny Veit, Fricke finds his perfect musical partner, his guitar working its way around the piano harmoniously. The mix here seems to give lead to Veit, with Yun’s Soprano generally quite low down in the mix.
Whilst this line-up may feature a tamboura, its use is incredibly subtle, almost indiscernible. First and foremost, this is an album for piano, electric guitar and voice with the rest mostly just accompaniments. The result is a classic early morning album. This is for gently easing you into the day before 11am kind of music. It would be far too soporific for later night but for someone who is slow to wake up, it makes perfect sense. The key word for this album is “gentle”. Even the oboe sounds sound, delicate and drenched in the light of the dawn. Even Veit’s wildest guitar soloing still seems laid out on a bed of velvet. The soprano never becomes shrill of piercing but remains restrained in all her strength.
If you are looking for freak-outs, strangeness, rock-outs or extreme music then this second incarnation of Popol Vuh is the wrong place to look but if you are looking for something gentle and beautiful then few pieces of music quite encapsulate those strengths like “Hosianna Mantra” does.